National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month
October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month (NMAAM). This annual campaign aims to raise the public’s awareness of the dangers of prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse.
Most of us know of the growing drug problem in our communities. But most of us aren’t aware that the fastest-growing drug problem in America isn’t heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamines, its prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
How Big is The Problem?
Most people take prescription medication responsibly; however, there is a growing trend, especially among adolescents and young adults that are misusing prescription drugs.
According to estimates from The National Institute on Drug Abuse:
- 18 million people have misused prescription medications at least once in the last 12 months
- 2 million Americans misused prescription pain relievers for the first time within the past year
- More than 1 million misused prescription stimulants
- Some 1.5 million misused tranquilizers
- 271,000 misused sedatives
- In 2019, 14,139 individuals died from prescription opioids overdose
- And, 5,175 Americans died from antidepressant overdose
Why Is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month So Important This Year?
The reasons why people misuse or abuse prescription and over-the-counter medication vary. In most cases, easy access to these medications topped the list of reasons.
Other reasons include misinformation on how addictive opioid medications are and the perception that prescription medications are safer and less harmful or addictive than illegal drugs.
The challenges we’ve had to face this year due to the public health care crisis mean many of us are suffering from the effects of extreme stress and anxiety.
Prolonged stress affects every aspect of our lives, from our emotions, behaviors, how we think, and of course, our physical health.
Stress can contribute to the misuse of prescription and over-the-counter medications to try and eliminate or decrease the severity of symptoms such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, and pain.
That is why at Altus Emergency Centers, we are working to raise awareness of the dangers of medicine abuse.
Know Where to Go in Case of an Emergency.
Preventing Medicine Abuse
These are some ways we can help prevent accidental or deliberate prescription drug overdoses in our home.
Don’t Hoard Medications and Keep Them Out of Children’s Reach
Many of us are guilty of saving unused medications in our medicine cabinet, yet this habit can have dire consequences.
Hoarding medications at home increases the risk of taking expired medications, which can have serious side effects.
Prescription drug addiction among children is growing. Make sure you speak to your kids about the dangers of taking drugs, even prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.
It would be best if you disposed of your unused medicines through drug take-back programs. Ask your pharmacist if they have such a plan in place.
Only Take Medication as Prescribed and Never Self-Medicate
It’s critical to adhere to your doctor’s instructions when taking prescription medications. For over-the-counter medicines, you should always follow the indications of the manufacturer.
The one thing you should avoid is self-medicating. If you feel unwell, call your doctor, visit our ER, or speak to your pharmacist or another trained medical professional. Don’t take medications based on friends or family’s suggestions and avoid miracle cures advertised on websites.
Look for Alternatives When Possible
If you feel stressed, anxious, or experiencing pain, rather than reach for the medicine cabinet several times a day, try to find alternative ways to deal with your situation.
Join a support group at your local church or speak to a friend about how you feel. Try getting a massage or do stretching exercises every day to help ease your pain.
What to Do In Case of an Accidental Overdose
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accidental overdoses are a leading cause of death among people between 35 and 54.
A drug overdose occurs when we take too much over-the-counter medicine or prescription medication. It can also happen if we take several prescription or over-the-counter drugs at the same time or if we combine them with alcohol.
Symptoms of an overdose can range from mild to life-threatening. Mild symptoms include slurred speech, drowsiness, and unsteadiness.
Severe and life-threatening symptoms require immediate medical attention. Call 911 and ask to be taken to the nearest Altus Emergency Center if you notice the following symptoms:
- Breathing problems
Altus Emergency Centers is here to help you overcome any medical emergency, including drug overdose. When you visit us, we will treat you like family because, to us, you are. We care about your well-being. If you are struggling with stress, anxiety, or drug addiction, we urge you to please reach out and seek help.